Living in the South West of Western Australia, we are, like everyone bound to our seasonal conditions and for us this means waiting till the Autumn rains have really set in before we can plant our winter crops. Every summer we shrink our garden back to a minimal amount of space, growing our summer crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, eggplants, pumpkins, chillies etc) in well prepared, irrigated garden beds or in wicking beds in order to use as little water as possible.
We also use these beds to get our early autumn crops in, especially the brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, asian greens, rocket ect) and root crops (carrots, radish, beetroots) and other greens so that as the summer crops slowly finish we are eating early brassicas and fabulous green salads. It’s important to get these crops into the irrigated beds as they do need a good couple of months of TLC before the rain comes and they can be left to mature.
During summer we start to prepare for late autumn planting by building large compost heaps on the future beds, keeping them moist and covered so that we can easily spread the well prepared compost over the beds when the time comes. Waiting just for that first rain isn’t quite enough, we wait till the soil is wet through and the natural ground covers (or weeds if you prefer) are starting to grow, then the planting can start.
Our large winter beds are contoured down our northern slope and after years of creating windbreaks they are (reasonably) protected from the damaging winter winds.
The crops we grow are garlic, onions, potatoes and broad beans, all those good things that can be stored and used through the year. The globe artichoke beds are also down the bottom of the garden so that after their long summer dormancy they wake up with the rains and get all the love that the other winter crops are getting.
It’s taken many years to establish a rhythm that works for us on our particular patch and we are still learning, evolving and experimenting with new methods, Claire Coleman has brought new methods along with a great knowledge of Biodynamics (see a recent blog by one of our BD students here) . We have been clearing quite a few perennials from the main grow beds and recently removed a large eucalyptus (that we had planted in the early days) as these are simply taking up
too many nutrients.
What would we change? A total redesign of the chook system so that they are working the beds. We’ve had various
rotating chook yards and chook tractors that have worked to a limited extent but to really design and build a serious
system that was no only chicken friendly but gardener friendly and %100 chook proof (1 escapee can do untold damage in a day) would be great.
For now we are thoroughly enjoying our beautiful garden, eating loads of brassicas and greens and of course welcoming you all to enjoy our space and eat our veg on Thursdays.